CONCORD, N.H. — The state Democratic Party is suing the Republican State Committee and its former executive director over jamming six Democratic phone banks on Election Day 2002.
Republicans Accused Of ‘Dirty Politics’
“Dirty politics has no place in our electoral process,” said Democratic state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro at a news conference Tuesday.
Democrats called on their Republican counterparts to “come clean” and reveal who did it, who knew about it and how much money was spent.
Ray Buckley, a state representative and chairman of the Manchester Democrats, said he became aware of the problem when a young volunteer said he feared he had done something to the phones because they rang constantly with no one on the other end.
The computer-generated calls went to lines set up for voters who needed rides to the polls. More than 800 hang-up calls were made to volunteers offering rides, tying up phones for about 1½ hours, according to a federal prosecutor.
That prosecutor, Todd M. Hinnen, said the calls stopped after then-chairman of the Republican State Committee, John Dowd, ordered a halt because of concerns that it was illegal.
Lawyer Finis Williams said the Democrats mailed their lawsuit Tuesday to Hillsborough County Superior Court seeking an injunction ordering the state GOP not to engage in illegal activities in the upcoming election. It also seeks monetary damages for the cost of setting up offices and phone lines for the get-out-the-vote effort that day.
“It is un-American to do this kind of thing — to try to suppress the vote of elderly people, of disabled people,” said Democratic State Chairwoman Kathleen Sullivan.
Ovide Lamontagne, the state Republican party’s lawyer, said a Republican response is premature until the federal investigation and prosecution is complete.
“The Republican party has cooperated fully and completely with federal prosecutors,” he said, adding that Republicans are eager to see justice done. The Democrats’ lawsuit in state court “only confuses what is an orderly and appropriate process (in federal court),” he said.
Though an injunction against illegal activity may seem redundant, Sullivan said the goal is to draw attention to the problem and “make sure that the people who are involved in this don’t do it again.”
The lawsuit names the Republican State Committee and Charles McGee, its former executive director who resigned in early 2003. Also named is Allen Raymond, head of the Virginia-based telemarketing firm, GOP Marketplace LLC.
The two men have been charged by the U.S. Justice Department with conspiring to jam five phone lines at Democratic Party offices in Manchester, Nashua, Rochester and Claremont and one at the headquarters of the nonpartisan Manchester Professional Fire Fighters Association, in violation of federal law.
Raymond pleaded guilty on June 30. McGee is scheduled to enter a plea on July 28. He has declined to comment.
The government alleges that McGee, in his role as the GOP’s top state staffer, had the state committee pay Raymond’s firm $15,600 to hire a vendor to jam the lines.
Federal law says it is a crime to conspire to make harassing interstate calls “without disclosing the caller’s identity and with the intent to annoy … or harass any person at the called number.”
Many state and federal races were decided that day, including the U.S. Senate race between outgoing Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Rep. John Sununu, who won.
D’Allesandro said he knows elderly people in his district who depend on a get-out-the-vote call to get to the polls. That could swing outcomes in a district like his, which can go either way, he said.
State GOP Chairwoman Jayne Millerick has said Republicans had hired GOP Marketplace for $15,600 for telemarketing services to encourage people to vote Republican.
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